Terence Blacker

The writer and broadcaster Terence Blacker contributes a twice-weekly column on a wide range of social, cultural and environmental issues. He is the author of four novels, of prize-winning fiction for children, and has written a highly praised biography of the brilliant reprobate Willie Donaldson.

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A detail from the now iconic 50 Shades of Grey book cover

No wonder '50 Shades' readers behave as they do. Books have that effect on people

Literature provides a more powerful and intimate experience than film or music

Maybe Alain de Botton’s right – perhaps we are becoming kinder

We care more about our fellow human beings than we used to

Columnist and writer Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran's honesty is the perfect antidote to revelations about Andy Coulson and Rolf Harris

Ah, the pleasures of the self – not such a male preserve after all

Bernard Jordan returns

The ‘D-Day rascal’ lets us indulge a modern pastime – patronising the old

It seems that anyone who has reached the age of 89 should be presumed to be so helpless that merely catching a train represents an act of derring-do

Life-enhancing wit: Nicholson Baker

Travelling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker, book review: A strange and interesting mind delights

Long before we entered this golden age of over-sharing, Nicholson Baker was fossicking through the stuff of intimate daily life, exploring in detail which borders on the obsessive-compulsive the subjects that fascinate him – words, books, music, poetry, humans, sex.

Why Ségolène Royal is right about décolletage

If she did indeed argue that professional women working in her ministry should avoid flashing the flesh, was that really such an outrageous thing to suggest?

Updike by Adam Begley, book review: A biography shows that John Updike's talent was for fiction, not domestic drama

In 1999,John Updike contributed an essay about what he called "the Judas biography" to the New York Review of Books. "I raise the possibility," he wrote, "that we resent a fiction writer's manipulation of his private life, including the private life of those around him, and rejoice when he or she loses control."

Singing from the Floor by JP Bean, book review: A glorious history of folk music and those who made it

It is not difficult to mock folk clubs. Middle-aged, occasionally solemn, riven with rules about what is acceptably traditional, they may sing brave songs of freedom but that spirit is not always extended to music of which they disapprove.

Stop the snobbery – kids won’t fall for a book just because a celebrity wrote it

It is time to be a little more relaxed when people like Russell Brand barge in

Fresh chapter: The Big Book Share gives prisoners an element of normality

Why books are a lifeline for prisoners

Terence Blacker was on a visit to a prison to talk about the benefits of reading when he heard about the ban on books. Where better to contemplate the folly of the move?

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Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?